Hello there, and welcome to my Animorphs liveblog. For the next few months, I am going to be doing a unique challenge: reading and reviewing every single one Animorphs books. I have just gotten an awesome Christmas present of 54 books (thank you Mom!), many of which I havenít even read, and so I will be writing my experiences reading each one here for you.
Now, several notes about this challenge:
- I will only be reviewing books I own. No working from memory alone. I own books #1-54, but am missing #48. Reviewing from memory can be unfair and faulty, and I wish to approach each book fresh.
- I wonít be reviewing the side books. I donít own any of the Alternamorphs, none of the Chronicles, and only one of the Megamorphs, #3. Now, if I can find them at the local library I will review them, but otherwise I will stick to what I have. So for now that means only Megamorphs 3 will be reviewed but no others.
- I wonít be reviewing the TV series in this liveblog. Unless someone can point me to a good channel or playlist where most of them are. Iíve had trouble trying to track down each episode on Youtube. If so, that will be a separate liveblog, and done after this one.
What I hope to gain from this series:
Sounds heavy, but Iím confident the series can support them. Thatís why I loved the series and why its page on this wiki is so big. If you havenít read the books: hereís a one-minute summary.
- Five kids walking through a construction site one night find a dying alien Andalite warrior named Elfangor, who tells them Earth is being invaded by aliens called Yeerks. The Yeerks are tiny slug-like critters that infest people and take over their brain, allowing them to begin a secret invasion. To counter this, Elfangor gives them morphing ability, which lets them acquire the DNA of animals and transform into them. The power comes at the price of trapping you in the animal body forever if you stay in it for more than 2 hours. A minute later the Yeerk Big Bad Visser Three eats Elfangor and the kids escape and form the guerilla resistance group dubbed the ďAnimorphsĒ, who will fight to defend Earth while they wait for the Andalite navy to arrive and save everybody. And so, the books begin. Have fun!
So, the cover. Honestly, I donít like that this cover is the image for the seriesí page here. Itís one of the ugliest, being the very first one. This one seemed to use computer models to change the kid on the cover from a boy to a lizard, but that only led to unfortunate results. Iím glad all the later books abandoned computer models.
The corners of each page also first establish the seriesí fun tradition: a flipbook of the bookís protagonist morphing. This one has our main character Jake transforming into a green anole lizard, and it looks way cooler than the cover. Why could they have used this one? It shows his whole body transforming! Looks like they actually used a real picture of a lizard too, not an awful model. Best of all, halfway through Jake looks like a Velociraptor.
The book opens with the gang of kids that will become our protagonists joining up for a simple walk back home. But along the way they encounter a descending alien ship. The introduction and dialogue of the gang can feel a little cheesy today, and the aging references donít help, but maybe thatís just me speaking as now a decade older than I was when I first read this book. The part with Elfangor is nothing we havenít seen before. I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin, etc. Canít write anything about his personality, though thatís excused by him being about to die.
But that all changes once the Yeerks arrive. Applegate really shows her strength her in describing feelings. You really feel like these kids are terrified. All the detail, their stomach churning, their teeth chattering, giving a visceral description of fear. You might even start feeling pretty afraid yourself, and given what theyíre seeing you canít blame them.
- If you've never been really afraid, let me you— it does things to you. It takes over your mind and your body. You want to scream. You want to run. You want to wet your pants. You want to throw yourself down on the ground and cry and beg please, please, please, please don't kill me! And if you think you're brave, well, wait till you're cowering a few feet away from from a monster who can turn you into coleslaw in about three seconds flat.
The aliensí designs are fantastically unique. Andalites? Freaky. Hork-Bajir? Threatening. Taxxons? Very scary. Their designs avert the problem of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, and make you feel like youíre getting a glimpse of the bigger universe already, even in a little construction site. Thereís visceral fear and thereís ominous fear. And lastly thereís guilt when Jakeís escape relies on the chasing aliens mistaking a homeless man for him. Overall, a very good beginning.
The next part of The Invasion takes us to Jakeís house, where we witness morphing for the first time. It strikes me just how strange Tobias feels, doubly shocking because I empathized with him the most when I was younger. Itís mainly because he doesnít seem affected at all by the horror of aliens eating each other at the construction site, while Jake is still struggling to keep himself held together. The fact that heís going crazy as a cat adds to this. And thereís this:
- ďGeez, Jake, donít you understand? I know what I can do and what I canít do. I canít make plans and tell people what to do. Iím not the leader. You are.ĒI laughed rudely. ďIím not the leader of anything.ĒHe just looked at me with those deep, troubled eyes Ė eyes I can now see only in my memory. ďYes, Jake, you are the leader. You are the one who can bring us all together and help us defeat the Controllers.Ē
Whoa, little intense there, Tobias. So by his logic, Jake is the leader because Tobias isnít? Um, thereís still three other kids who could qualify. Now, Jake DOES become the Animorphsí leader, but this is kinda a bad way to force that. So far we havenít seen anything in Jakeís actions or character that would make him the best leader.
But we do find out a little about Jakeís life in the following pages. We learn that he loves basketball and is pretty close to his brother. But basketball is less of a concern when thereís a possible alien invasion coming, and his brother Tom isnít as warm to him today. Ordinary life contrasts with the fantastic here, especially as we hear Jake grumble about having to mow the lawn.
The next section takes us to Cassieís farm, and and we quickly find out how the team dynamic will be. Rachel is focused on cementing the facts of the situation. Cassie is being dreamy. Most of all, Marco is being whiny.
Okay, maybe whiny is too strong of a word. What I really like here is that Marco isnít made in a Straw Complainer.
- ďLook, why do we have to deal with this? I say we just forget it. We never talk about it. We never morph. We just deal with our own lives. We could get killed! Donít you get it? You saw what happened to the Andalite. I mean, this is radical stuff, Jake. This is real. Real! We could all get killed. Look, I think these Controllers* are jerks. But if something happened to meÖ my dad. He wouldnít be able to handle it.Ē*Tobias was looking at Marco with this sideways look, like he thought maybe Marco was some kind of coward. I knew better. Marco had his reasons.
Forget Jake, Marco is the Ensemble Dark Horse of this book. His relationship with his dad in light of his momís death are detailed more as The Invasion goes on, and itís heartwarming to see his turn at the end to join the others in infiltrating the Yeerk Pool* and rescuing Jakeís infested brother. ďOh, shut up! Youíre my best friend, you jerk. Like Iím going to let you go face all this alone? Iím in. Iím in, to rescue Tom. Thatís it. Then Iím done.Ē
Still, itís kinda annoying to hear him keep protesting nearly every page. And I could criticize that we donít get much of a feel for what Rachel and Cassie are like. But hey, weíve got 53 books for that.
The kids figure out the fundamentals of their morphing powers: that they have a two hour limit, that they have to really concentrate on the animal to transform, only skintight clothing morphs, they receive telepathic communication, and most importantly the animalís mind still exists alongside theirs. This aspect is where the seriesí knowledge of biology really shines, though it gradually gets annoying to keep reading about them having to fight its instincts. But again, they have 53 books to learn.
That biology continues as we head to the Gardens, the local amusement park and zoo where the kids will meet many times there to acquire new animals. Itís amusing how the animals are often actually kinda apathetic about the kids coming up to them. The security guard chase is annoying but obligatory. And Marcoís whininess fades in favor of his snarkiness.
- Marco as he acquires a gorilla: ďI loved your work in King Kong Versus Godzilla.Ē
- ďNow do you see why itís crazy to think we can beat the Yeerks? I mean, come on: we can barely beat zoo security.Ē
- As Jake tries to acquire a tiger: ďAcquire? Acquire what? You canít acquire anything about him. Heís the acquirer, and youíre the acquiree. Heís going to acquire your butt for dinner! Heís going to acquire you and spit out the bones!Ē
- ď[The tigerís] magnificent. But letís get out of here before he shows us why heís king of the jungle.Ē
The Lancer almost always feels cooler than the hero. But anyway, the kids gain their power morphs and plan to invade the Yeerk pool, hoping to rescue Tom tonight. But Cassie is missing, and thatís just the first sign that things will go wrong.
- ďWhat is the matter with him?Ē I exploded. ď[Tobias has] got a two-hour limit and we donít know how long this is going to take!Ē
- Tobias swooped down and perched on Rachelís shoulder. It surprised me a little. Why would Tobias perch on Rachelís shoulder? And she didnít seem annoyed. She rubbed her head against him a little.
Subtler foreshadowing. But Tobias is having too much fun as a hawk and is refusing to exit, which makes me wonder how the kids managed to get down to the Yeerk Pool without anyone noticed the random hawk they were carrying.
Surprise surprise, Cassie has been captured! Itís up to the rest of the gang to kick butt and save her. They summon the powers of Elephant! Tiger! Gorilla! Birdy! I leave you with these to let you visualize the awesome beatdown. Donít concern yourself with the Fridge Logic that the guards suddenly seem to have forgotten their guns.
But itís a victory only in that they got out of there alive. Visser Three BECOMES the Bigger Fish and nearly all the rescued are killed by his Eldritch Abomination morph. Tom has a moment of Leeroy Jenkins, and unfortunately gets thrust aside and loses his own rescue. Thatís the closest Jake will ever get to saving in him in a long, long time.
The next morning things are seemingly forced to be back to normal. The controlled Tom arrives home that night and gives no sign that he was nearly rescued. The kids have to take their school tests while struggling to deal with their memories of the screams of prisoners in the Yeerk Pool. Worst of all, that Yeerk Pool entrance is always just down the hallway.
And Tobias is trapped in his hawk morph. Honestly, though I wish they had delayed the trapping until later in the series so that it could deliver a greater shock, it still hits pretty hard after the end of a terrible battle. The tone of the series is effectively set here: the kids will be forced to live their double lives of trivial school and being in war, but theyíll never chose to stop fighting.
And that is Book 1 of Animorphs! See you around for Book 2, The Visitor, where the story takes place from the view of Rachel.